Medvedev orders corruption investigation into Putin's Sochi Olympics
Russia President Dmitry Medvedev has ordered an investigation into allegations that a top Kremlin official took huge bribes in connection with the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Analysts are unsure whether it's a sincere crackdown.
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"Basically, the number of bribes may have gone down but the sums of cash changing hands has gone up astronomically," says Masha Lipman, editor of the Moscow Carnegie Center's Pro et Contra journal. "It would make anyone in Russia laugh if you claimed Medvedev's anti-corruption drive has been successful. So, rather than claim success, what he can do is this one-off investigation into one of his own officials."Skip to next paragraph
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Anton Pominov, a project director with the Russian branch of Transparency International, an NGO that tracks global corruption trends, says that some of the laws and other measures put in place by Medvedev, such as forcing officials to file income statements, might reduce corruption in the long run, but little has been achieved so far.
"We are not optimistic in the short run," Mr. Pominov says. "We do see some steps being taken, and experts differ over whether these are real or just an imitation of anticorruption activity. For it to be real, much more would have to be done. In the first place, there should be genuine political competition, free elections that would make officials directly responsible to the public. Russia is so corrupt that, without that kind of accountability, no anticorruption measures will work."
Transparency International's annual corruption perceptions index currently ranks Russia No. 146 out of 180 countries, down from No. 82 a decade ago.
'Everything has a corruption component'
Mr. Nemtsov, the former deputy prime minister, says that the cost of the Sochi Olympics could snowball to as much as $30 billion, given the current rate of cost overruns. Even the current official estimate of $12 billion comes to around 10 times the $1.3 billion price tag for last winter's Vancouver Games in Canada.
"The Sochi Olympics are one of the biggest frauds connected to the Putin years, one of the biggest corruption deals in history," says Nemtsov, who has authored a strongly critical report on the Putin years in Russia. "Every apartment, road, or stadium being built has a huge corruption component."
For example, he says, a road being constructed between Sochi and the mountaintop Olympic venue of Krasnaya Polyana cost the government $145 million per kilometer, many times the price of mountain roads elsewhere in the world.
The Carnegie Center's Masha Lipman argues that the Kremlin's opaque nature makes it difficult to know whether Medvedev's order to investigate Leshchevsky is a sincere effort to kick-start his anticorruption drive or if it is political fallout from a power struggle at the top.
"In the absence of real political competition and transparency any corruption charges are likely to be connected with bureaucratic score settling," rather than real law enforcement, she says.
"In any case, it won't do anything to change the picture of rampant corruption that permeates every aspect of life in Russia, and is getting worse by the day."
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